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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit that was created by the insurance industry to improve driving safety and reduce the losses, including injuries, deaths and property damage, from traffic crashes.

Recently, the organization performed a study to determine if back seat passengers are still getting the safest treatment. After all, most people assume the back seat is the safest part of the car — and that has been true for decades.

In somewhat of a turn, however, the IIHS says that back seats are not as safe — comparatively — as the front seat. The reason is that front seat safety has received more attention from carmakers in recent years.

For example, front-seat seatbelts are more advanced than those in the back seat. In the front seat, the shoulder harness for the belt contains a force limiter, which lets in slack during a crash when too much force goes through the belt. Back-seat seatbelts typically do not have force limiters.

That’s an important point because many people in the IIHS study suffered chest injuries from back-seat seatbelts without force limiters.

Back seat injuries and deaths could be reduced with a couple of design changes

For the study, the IIHS examined the records of 117 frontal collisions. In those collisions, a back-seat passenger had been injured or killed even though they were wearing a seatbelt. The IIHS found that many of those injuries could have been less severe and many of the deaths could have been avoided if front-seat-style safety technology had been installed in the back seat.

Beyond force limiters on the seatbelts, the Institute recommended that car makers consider installing airbags in the ceiling for deployment in the back seat.

Studies like this one have often prompted change in the automobile industry, and the group hopes this one will, too.

“We’re confident that vehicle manufacturers can find a way to solve this puzzle in the back seat just as they were able to do in the front,” the group’s president told the Associated Press.

Until that change comes, do your best to protect your back-seat passengers by driving safely and avoiding distractions. However, moving your young children into the front seat is not a better solution at this time. The back seat is still the safest place for children.

Air bags offer excellent protection to teens and adults. Currently, however, airbags are hazardous for smaller, lighter people – little kids, that is – when they inflate. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids ride in the backseat until they’re at least 13 years old.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident and you have questions or need guidance, contact the Quinn Law Firm at 814-833-2222 for a free consultation regarding your case.